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I have this sentence:

Even if I seem too busy, or you made a mistake, or someone we care about will be upset, or you feel embarrassed, if anything bothers you, I want to know.

I believe that it is correctly punctuated as is, right?

I have a style question... Would the sentence be easier to parse if there was a dash between embarrassed and if instead of a comma? And is that an accepted punctuation choice for a sentence like this?

Even if I seem too busy, or you made a mistake, or someone we care about will be upset, or you feel embarrassed--if anything bothers you, I want to know.

Thank you for your help!

  • 2
    Yes and yes, if you ask me. It should be a proper dash, though—not two hyphens. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 19 '14 at 6:43
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, I didn't know how to make a dash on this site, so I made do with two hyphens. What did you type for the dash to appear in your comment? – Lacey Jul 19 '14 at 7:21
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    I simply typed a dash (Opt + Shift + - on my Mac; holding down the - key and choosing the em dash on my iPhone where I typed the comment; more tricky if you’re on a Windows machine, but holding down Alt and typing 0151 on the numeric keypad works). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 19 '14 at 7:24
  • Thanks for the tip—It's a whole new dash world for me now! – Lacey Jul 19 '14 at 7:33
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It looks good to me that way. I would, however, get rid of all those extraneous uses of "or" to make:

Even if I seem too busy, you made a mistake, someone we care about will be upset, or you feel embarrassed—if anything bothers you, I want to know.

edit: even better, I'd swap the clauses:

If anything bothers you, I want to know–even if I seem too busy, you made a mistake, someone we care about will be upset, or you feel embarrassed.

  • 2
    I think the repetitive use of 'or' in the original sentence is a useful rhetorical device for emphasizing that no matter what kind of obstacle might appear to stand in the way, the speaker is willing to hear the other person's points. Swapping the order of the clauses works OK, though -- but I would still keep those or's that you stripped out. – Erik Kowal Jul 19 '14 at 7:01
  • Good idea about swapping the clauses. I will run it past the author I'm working with. And @ErikKowal, I agree the or's work well here to emphasize the speaker's point. – Lacey Jul 19 '14 at 7:24
  • Fair enough (regarding 'or'). Sometimes I get lost in efficiency and correctness. – user85526 Jul 20 '14 at 2:30

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